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For one student from the Riverview Gardens area, reaching that goal means spending up to five hours a day maneuvering through public transit routes to get to his school of choice.
No, that wasn’t a typo – Tay’Vion Like spends FIVE hours a day commuting to make sure he graduates this year from the school district he has attended since seventh grade.
On a typical school day, Tay’Vion wakes up at 3:45 a.m. to get ready for school. He hits the streets at 4:45 a.m. for a mile walk on dark, unlit streets without sidewalks so he can catch the 5:17am bus in Riverview Gardens.
And when school is over, Tay’Vion does this whole process again in reverse to get home each night. When there are after school or weekend activities he doesn’t get home until 9 p.m. at best and sometimes as late as midnight.
“I can sometimes do homework on the bus or I do it when I get home,” he said. “There are nights I don’t go to sleep and just sleep on the bus. It’s exhausting at times.”
What would motivate someone to take such great lengths for a quality education?
For Tay’Vion it is all about escaping a bad situation at a bad school — a reality that Tay’Vion has seen firsthand can ruin lives.
Tay’Vion was severely bullied when he attended Riverview Gardens’ schools.
“I was bitter, and thought everyone was out to get me,” he said, noting that he makes his daily expedition to Kirkwood to avoid heading down the same path as his older brother, Rashaun, who also attended Riverview Gardens and had experienced bullying resulting in his placement in Riverview Garden’s alternative program, ACE, and eventual the decision to drop out of school.
But for Rashaun, the bullying still persisted outside of school. He would routinely get his money stolen and ended up caught in an altercation with a bully that ended in a shooting and landed Rashaun in prison where he still is today.
Tay’Vion’s mother Tonya Bateman couldn’t let this happen to the rest of her children. Her second child, Adrienne Bateman-Like, chose to graduate from Riverview Gardens since she was in her senior year at the time. She was the first in her family to go onto college and is currently in her senior year at Maryville College.
But Tay’Vion was not doing well at Riverview Gardens. He was behind in school and very unhappy, so when the transfer program began in 2013 Tonya jumped on the opportunity to transfer Tay’Vion to a better school district (under the transfer program transportation was provided). He started in the Kirkwood School District in Seventh Grade.
“I became a different person from when I went to Riverview,” Tay’Vion said. “Mostly it’s the people I’ve met out there. They helped me and changed me as a person. Kirkwood helped me open up to people. I have more confidence and can stand up for myself. I talk to friends still at Riverview and they say it’s a huge cover-up. Nothing has changed.”
So when transportation for the transfer program was discontinued last year and they were faced with the possibility of returning to Riverview Gardens, Tonya and Tay’Vion knew they had to figure out some other way to get to Kirkwood — no matter how difficult it may be.
After looking at all their options, public transportation was the only one that would work so Tay’Vion began his long journey to school and back each day. His dedication set a trend in the neighborhood and he is now joined by two other students on the long commute.
“You got to do what you got to do to get a good education,” said his mother. “My older son didn’t get a chance so I’m trying to make it better for Tay’Vion.”
The long hours navigating the early morning commute have paid off.
Tay’Vion has developed a passion for computer science and was accepted into South Technical High School for this school year, a very selective partial-day CTE school where students learn specific technical skills.
“I don’t know what college I’m going to yet but oh, I am definitely going to college,” he said. “My main inspiration is my mom. She doesn’t want me going down the same path as my brother and neither do I. When he gets out of jail I want to be in the position to help my brother to get him on the right path.”
Tay’Vion said he hopes others will learn how dedication to a quality education can change your life.
“If you have a goal and believe in it then you can achieve it.”